I call it East Texas Jambalaya, but it’s really Louisiana Cajun Jambalaya with sausage from Central Texas with its German and Czech roots, rather than Andouille sausage. It’s what was available to me when I lived in the German belt in Central Texas. It’s also my favorite style of sausage, so I step away from tradition a little bit here, but not that much.
At any rate, this is a tradition in my house. I can make a giant vat and feed an army without a lot of hassle.
I got hooked on jambalaya when I was in high school and lived in a small town called Giddings, Texas (a historically German and Czech community), on Highway 290 between Houston and Austin. A Cajun family had moved to town and opened up a restaurant called “Jambalayas.” So, of course, jambalaya was featured on the menu, along with other fantastic Cajun foods, like crawfish etouffee.
It was, hands-down, my favorite place to eat in that town. I think, unfortunately, they’ve closed down since then. If the owners opened up anywhere else, I’d like to know. They made the best gumbo I’ve ever eaten. I’d drive across the state and buy it by the bucket full if I could.
Later in life, when I did some work in far East Texas, I pretty much lived in any restaurant that featured Cajun Food. There ain’t much better than that.
I’m absolutely certain that cold beer and spicy Cajun food will be prominently featured on all the menus in heaven.
Making Your Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
Jambalaya is made using simple and humble ingredients. Those ingredients can stay simple and humble, or you can use a few techniques to make them taste better and make the dish easier to cook.
Mise en Place
First, let’s talk about mise en place. Mise en place is French for “everything in its place.” This recipe uses a lot of ingredients, and to cook them all properly, those ingredients have to go in the pot at different times and be handled in different ways.
If you just throw everything in the pot at one time, it’ll end up being a big gummy mess.
If you have everything chopped and laid out in the proper order, it’ll be a breeze to get through the recipe.
If you chop everything up before you begin, then group it together as laid out below, this recipe is super-easy.
- Roast the chicken thighs while your prepping.
- Chop your large onions and put them in a separate bowl.
- Dice the sausage and add to a separate bowl.
- Dice the bell pepper, poblano, jalapenos, celery, and the white and light green parts of the green onions and place them in a separate bowl. Put the tops of the green onions in the refrigerator for use as a garnish later (don’t forget them).
- Place the minced garlic, cayenne, paprika, chili powder, black pepper, and kosher salt in a small bowl.
- Measure out your chicken stock and place it in a container.
- Measure out your rice and place it in a container.
Now place the bowls in the order set out above next to your stove. All you’ll have to do while you’re cooking is reach over and grab what’s needed, as it’s needed—no running around the kitchen.
Cutting to the Proper Size
When chopping your ingredients, it’s essential to cut them to the proper size.
I know all the pictures of Jambalaya on the internet show giant disks of sausage in them. It photographs well that way. Do you really want a huge mouthful of sausage, though?
If you cut things into bite-sized pieces, the meal will be much more pleasant.
Additionally, I like to cut the vegetables in my Jambalaya into very small pieces so that they break down in the cooking process until they are almost a sauce.
As far as getting things to the correct size, try to get your chicken and sausage diced into a 1/2 inch dice and your vegetables into a 1/4 inch dice. It doesn’t have to be perfect, though.
If you like a little heat with your dinner add a little Texas-Style Chiltepin Sauce to your Jambalaya.
The Maillard Reaction
One final note on cooking your jambalaya. I like to use cast iron for searing the sausage and vegetables. The cast iron helps with the Maillard Reaction, which adds an amazing depth of flavor.
In addition to searing the sausage and vegetables in the cast iron, you’ll also be repeating a process called cooking until au sec. Au sec means “until almost dry” in French. You’ll be deglazing (using a liquid to help take stuck on bits off of the pot) with chicken stock, then cooking the moisture out of the stock until the vegetables start to stick to the bottom of the pot again. This concentrates the chicken flavor and caramelizes the vegetables further.
It adds a tremendous amount of complexity and flavor to the dish.
East Texas Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
- 2 1/2 lbs. chicken thighs - excess fat trimmed (not all the fat, just the big pieces)
- 2 large yellow onions - diced
- 5 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1 tbs. vegetable oil
- 1 lb. smoked German sausage - 1/2 inch dice
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter - (4 tablespoons)
- 1 large green bell pepper - seeded, de-veined, and finely diced
- 1 medium poblano pepper - seeded, de-veined, and finely diced
- 2 large jalapenos - seeded, de-veined, and finely diced
- 1 bunch green onions - white and light green parts chopped, dark green parts reserved for garnish
- 3 large celery stalks - diced
- 5 cloves garlic - minced
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper - Add more or less, depending on how much heat you like
- 2 tsp. paprika
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 2 tsp. oregano
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tsp. Kosher salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 2 cups long grain rice
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Place the chicken in a roasting pan and cook on the middle rack for 15 minutes, then flip and roast an additional 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.
- Add the oil to a large cast iron dutch oven. Swirl to coat the bottom and preheat over medium-high until hot. Add the sausage and sear until well browned on all sides. About five minutes. Remove the sausage and set aside. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of oil.
- Add the butter to the dutch oven, when melted, add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions start to turn translucent and start to brown, then add 1/4 cup of chicken broth and cook, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon get remove all the stuck-on bits (called deglazing) until it is almost completely evaporated. About an additional 5 minutes.
- Add the remaining vegetables (excluding the garlic), along with another 1/4 cup of chicken broth. Cook, stirring often until the broth has evaporated and the vegetables begin browning and sticking to the bottom of the pot. About 5 minutes. Add another 1/4 cup of chicken stock and deglaze again. About another 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and all of the herbs and seasonings. Cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute. Deglaze with 1/2 of a cup of chicken broth and reduce until almost dry again.
- Add the remaining chicken broth, dice the chicken into a 1/4-inch dice, then add it and the sausage and rice. Stir well, bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover. Cook for about 45 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir. Re-cover the pot and let sit for an additional 10 minutes. Garnish with the chopped green onion tops. Don't forget the bay leaves are still in there.